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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2007

A second chance at a treat, seven decades late

Jane Kittle, center, with her sisters Donna Bloom, left, and Joanne Rooks. Jane Kittle, center, with her sisters Donna Bloom, left, and Joanne Rooks.

Seventy years ago, a little girl named Jane Eyre was looking forward to a big treat.

Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Eyre, who lived on Walbridge Avenue, had promised to take their daughter to see a production of Jane Eyre, starring Katharine Hepburn and Orson Welles, which was coming to the Paramounton March 4, 1937. But young Jane never got there.

As Jane Eyre Kittle recalls, her sister came down with whooping cough, and the entire household was quarantined.

"At that time, they posted a big red ticket on your door, meaning no one could go out or in," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Hillsdale, Mich.

Learning of the child's disappointment, Hepburn sent Jane a large autographed photo, which she hung in her bedroom.

Seven decades later, almost to the day, Jane Eyre is returning to Toledo, and Mrs. Kittle will be attending the show in the Valentine Theatre with her husband, two daughters, and sister Donna, the one who had whooping cough.

They won't be seeing Katharine Hepburn, but Mrs. Kittle doesn't really care. "I just love the book so much," she said. "And I'll probably even enjoy it more now than I would have when I was 6. I probably wouldn't have understood much, then."

As for Hepburn's photograph, "Somehow it got lost," Mrs. Kittle recalled, so she wrote to both Hepburn and Welles, in hopes of getting another one. Hepburn never answered, but Welles did, and Mrs. Kittle still has his gift.

- Nanciann Cherry

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